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Karate belts, your Students’ Prized Possessions

I don’t know about you, but one of the most irritating things for me as a karate teacher is having to tie kids’ belts every 2 minutes.

Yes, I know, I hear you saying, “Just make them tie it themselves!”

And for the most part they do, but there are times in my youngest class where 4 and 5 year olds have a hard time especially when they are beginners.

Now I could always go for one of those “Velcro belts” (pre-tied) that just wrap around your karate kids’ waists and never come undone, but that really wouldn’t be karate now would it? Part of the discipline is learning to be responsible and tie your own belt.

I REFUSE to go down that Velcro-belt path and you should too… (To quote my daughter, “If you do that then I won’t be your best friend!” – not sure where she got that from, but that’s 3 year old negotiation skills at their best).

Now I’m sure you ask your karate kids to practice tying their belts at home, and maybe some of them will, but you’ll always be faced with those lazy kids with over compensating parents who always tie their belts for them.

Well, last week I came up with a little incentive for my youngest kids to keep an eye on their belts and make sure they don’t come off.

I told them, “Sensei just made a new rule. If your belt comes off, then it belongs to Sensei for the rest of class!”.

A few of the litte ones laughed, some looked at me with wide eyes, and some probably wondered why I talked about myself in the third person.

Anyway, as soon as the first belt hit the floor, I quickly snatched it up faster than a magician in a coin-snatching contest and tied it around my waist, over my black belt.

The class errupted with laughter and the student who just lost their belt stood there in shock. His precious belt, his most prized possession now was tied securely around Sensei’s waist.

Not 3 minutes later the second belt hit the floor. I pounced on that one like a cat and tied that sucker on top of the other.

This time there was less laughter, some concerned looks and a lot of focus on the state of their own belts.

When the 3rd belt came off just a couple minutes later during an exercise we were doing, I claimed that one too. At that point every child checked the status of their belt. Every student pulled on their belt to make sure it was tight!

The kids without belts had anguished looks on their faces and the others realized that pretty soon Sensei would have more belts than the rest of the class if this trend kept up.

Toward the end of the class I returned their kidnapped belts, and those kids who “didn’t know how to tie their belt” suddenly learned how.

And I’m happy to report since that class, we have less belts coming off, more self awareness and less interruptions.

This little trick worked well for me, and feel free to use it too.

What methods do you use to ensure belts stay tied?

– Jason

7 thoughts on “Karate belts, your Students’ Prized Possessions

  1. I've tried "obi kiai"….where I shout "Obi kiai!" And all 4 year olds grab their belt tails near the knot, pull sideways and kiai while in kiba dachi. Granted, it usually means that parents and me make sure the belt is tied correctly at the beginning of class. But….I love your method, and I'm going to try it! 🙂 let's see what happens with no obi kiai tonight and how many belts end up on my waist! 🙂

  2. I have contemplated dying a bunch of white belts pink and make them wear those if they lose their belts too many times. The girls might like it, though. What I do now is, if the belt falls off too many times, I withhold any stripe promotion until they can keep their belt on. I will try your new method, though. I'm pretty sure my students will just think it's funny.

  3. Far out that's an awesome idea, I'll adopt it in today's class, cheers Jason.
    Also Students tend to have pride in where they line up for class, so I'll have them do exercises and join the back of the class.

  4. Interesting ideas… I might include some of those if my belt-kidnapping method starts failing… but so far so good.

    My students thought it was funny too… until it happenned to them. =)

    I've found it's important to keep it light hearted… so your students don't have a complete meltdown. With the belt kidnapping method they get just enough emotional pain that they keep an eye on it in future, but not so much they freak out.

    Years ago I confiscated a kid's new belt and gave him a piece of rope. I told him when he was ready to act like a good karate kid again he could earn it back. Well, it freaked him out completely. He had a complete meltdown and I lost a student.

    Lesson learned… keep it light-hearted but stand firm!

  5. I have decided to adopt your method and discontinue striking them across the calves with a shinai (although I like the rope idea…).

  6. I like the idea of keeping it light hearted, though I'm almost certain with our group of students this will only promote more of a disruption as many of them do not share the same pride I and you certainly have for our belts.

    I predict they will intentionally loosen their belts just to see how many belts will fit around Sensei waist.

  7. I'll be interested to hear everybody's feedback on this…

    It's working great for me. If the kids don't take it seriously and I get their belt, I also decided to withhold the stripe promotion. Seems kids are far more aware this week! (Thanks Damien).

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